Lake Suwa (Suwa-ko) located in the central part of the Nagano Prefecture is the 23rd largest lake in Japan with an area of 13 square kilometers compared to the 670 square kilometers occupied by Japan’s largest fresh water lake, Lake Biwa, located in Shiga Prefecture. An interesting phenomenon takes place at Lake Suwa during winter, something that is referred to as Omiwatari (The God’s Crossing). There is a natural onsen (hot spring) located under the lake’s surface which causes pressure ridges to form on the surface of the lake. When the lake’s surface freezes during winter, the warm onsen waters beneath the lake circulate, forming these ridges which can reach heights of 30 centimeters or more!
But that is not the only thing that Lake Suwa is famous for. During mid-August of each year, a grand fireworks festival is held at the Kamisuwa district. Fireworks festivals during the summer months are highly regarded in Japan, just like the blooming sakura (cherry blossoms) in the spring. Hanabi means flowers of fire and like the cherry blossoms their existence is very brief. Hailed as the largest fireworks festival in the world with 40,000 shells detonated, the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival draws over 350,000 spectators. (The largest fireworks festival in Tokyo, held over the Sumida River only uses 20,000 shells.)
The event, which began shortly after World War II in an effort to uplift spirits in postwar Japan, lasts 2 hours. The finale features a 2 kilometer long waterfall of cascading sparkles which draws gasps from the spectators as the sounds of the shells detonating resonate from the surrounding Japanese Alps.
Lake Suwa is accessible via the JR Chuo Line. Exit at Kamisuwa Station and your destination is a short 8 minute walk from that point.
For more information, visit the event website at: http://www.suwako-hanabi.com/ (Japanese)